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Bill Summers

Sport: Baseball

Born: November 11, 1895

Died: September 12, 1966

Town: Harrison

William Reed Summers was born November 11, 1895 in Harrison. His parents, Jenny and John, were Scottish immigrants who came to New Jersey to work in the textile industry. The family moved to Woonsocket, RI when Bill was a boy and struggled to make ends meet. Bill quit school when he was 12 to work with his father in the local mill. He was strong and quick, and had some skill in the boxing ring. He fought professionally in his early 20s as a lightweight as Marty Winters and Marty Summers.

Bill was also a good sandlot baseball player. When he was 17, he was called out of the stands before a high school game and asked to fill in for the umpire, who failed to show up. He continued to umpire in regional industrial leagues while also becoming a Boston policeman. In 1919, Bill lost his job during a police strike and turned to umpiring full-time. He worked his way up through the minors and reached the big leagues in 1933, working American League games as a 37-year-old “rookie.”

Bill earned a reputation as an accurate and consistent plate umpire, and was selected to work the All-Star Game and World Series in just his fourth year (1936). As a result, he was involved in far fewer on-field disputes than most of his peers during the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps his greatest honor was being selected to umpire the one-game playoff in 1948 between the Red Sox and Indians. In all, Bill was picked for 7 All-Star Games and 8 World Series.

Bill retired following the 1959 season. A popular after-dinner speaker during the off-season, he went right to work for AL Commissioner Joe Cronin as a baseball goodwill ambassador, traveling around the world visiting U.S. military bases. He passed away at the age of 70 in Upton, MA.

 

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